Saturday, November 26, 2011

The only 'Wheel' Western: The Men From Shilo

'Wheel' shows are shows with rotating series under the same 'umbrella title'. Like 'NBC Mystery Movie' that had 'Columbo' one week, 'McMillian and Wife' the next, and 'McCloud' the one after that. Then the rotation would start again. This is not to be confused with 'Anthology' shows like 'Twilight Zone' or 'Alfred Hitchcock' or 'Police Story' where each week had a unique story with the same tone and format, but no 'rotating' characters.

Other 'wheel' shows were 'The Bold Ones', 'Four in One', and the original, 'The Name of the Game'.

But there's one that gets forgotten in the discussion, that is a western called 'The Men From Shilo'. It was actually the final season of 'The Virginian'. They decided to change the title and have stories showcasing four characters. Two from the original, The Virginian and Trampas, and two new characters: A fish-out-of-water Englishman (with a butler in tow) played by Stewart Granger who buys Shilo Ranch in the first episode, and Lee Majors as Tate, a drifter of few words with a Fu Manchu mustache. This was Majors pre-Bionic Man and post-'Big Valley'.

Doug McClure also sports a mustache and Drury has grown out his sideburns. An attempt to reach a younger audience, I suppose.

For some reason, 'The Men From Shilo' is not part of 'The Virginian' rerun package seen on Encore. So when the DVD came out, I got it and, like a lot of things we remember liking 40 years ago, it's not that good. The best thing about it is the theme song by Ennio Morricone, who wrote a bunch of those  spaghetti western songs. I don't know what I was expecting. I never was much of a 'Virginian' fan anyway, but had some vague memory of kinda liking 'Men From Shilo'. The show actually is better than 'The Virginian', but for me, that's not saying much.

They kept the same time slot, the same 90-minute format, and the ratings were not bad. But it was canceled anyway. Maybe part of the famous 'rural purge' of 1969-1972 when shows with either a rural theme or that appealed to rural or older audiences were canceled even if the ratings were strong.

A not so interesting James Drury/'Men From Shilo' inside story: Years ago, when I lived in San Diego, I worked with a woman who had worked for an 'answering service' that had James Drury as a client. She said he was a super nice guy. When 'Men From Shilo' came out, she talked to him one day and told him flat out that she didn't like the new format. Drury was surprised and asked 'why not?'. To which she replied, 'I don't know. I just don't like it'.

As I said, a 'not so interesting' story, but it's the only one I got!


Post a Comment

<< Home